I’ve been really grumpy over the past few weeks. I can tell I’ve not been my usual happy-go-lucky self because I’ve seen that fear in the old man’s eyes each time we pass each other, and he has been uncommonly brave and accused me of being “unreasonable” several times.
We’ve both been under pressure, having just completed our fifteenth house move since we met. I won’t bore you with the details, but sadly the landlord of the lovely pad we moved into in March last year decided to sell it for silly money and we found ourselves homeless again.
Luckily for us, our agents had this cute little townhouse on their books, and apart from a whining dog next door, blinds that bang against the metal window frames, and ridiculous Sydney temperatures that turn the bedrooms into our own private saunas at night, we’ve settled in relatively quickly.
But the move has highlighted how much pressure I put on myself to do everything perfectly. If I hadn’t had to work on the day of our move, I suspect that the house would have come together like a styled property by the evening, whatever the cost to my health. But fortunately, because I had to leave the management of our move to the old man – who prioritized moving boxes of stuff we don’t use (in typical man-fashion) from one cage to another – there has been quite a lot of unpacking and sorting left to do.
I’m not sure why I am so hard on myself when, in general, I would describe myself as an empath. I do believe that my journey with Kurt has made me more compassionate towards the plight of those less fortunate, or perhaps a greater empathy comes with the territory when you lose a parent at a young age. Whatever. I like to think I’m a good person to have around in a crisis, like when someone gets ill, or is blindsided by something unexpected.
I don’t need to tell you that I’m no saint, but I rarely judge others unless I am judged. For example, when I pass overweight people on my walks, I don’t judge them. My default setting is to think the best and to commend them internally for trying to change their lifestyle. And when I hear stories about the acts of the mentally ill or even paedophiles, I’m always trying to find reasons why they behaved that way or excuses for what they do.
I felt nothing but sadness for the plight of Joachim’s character in Joker in spite of his reaction to it.
But strangely, I don’t have the same reserves of empathy when it comes to myself. Like so many of us – on this endless treadmill in search of perfection in life – I never sit back and say ‘well done’ to me.
Perhaps, that’s because the stuff I do seems insignificant, and certainly not the sort of achievements that deserve a bottle of bubbly or a work jolly. My achievements are more micro, more everyday, like helping others in some way, ticking off something on my bucket list, or being nice to the old man for a day.
I know it’s considered losers’ talk to say that it is ‘the taking part that counts’, but I have to disagree. Social media has made all of us aspire to be what (perhaps) only the top 5% of people manage to achieve i.e. public success in some domain. And yet for some reason, these are the people we measure ourselves by – whether they are models or actresses, perfect mothers, successful career women, or simply “good” people.
The way the media handled Kobe Bryant’s death was a great example. I hated the way the deaths of the other people in that helicopter were barely acknowledged. Surely, they had full, successful lives as well?
I’ll save the question of how we measure success for another day, but if you’d asked me ten years ago if I ever saw myself becoming a paid writer, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet here I am – achieving something I’m hugely proud of. If someone told me a year ago that I’d hold down my current day job for a year – for which I’m ill-qualified – I’d have been equally as doubtful.
You see, I had to reinvent myself AGAIN for it. It’s a problem many women face when they need a job to fit in with family and lifestyle – hence the reason my resume reads like it belongs to Jill Of All Trades – none of which I have any real qualifications for. Luckily for me, I am good at being in the right place at the right time, I’m a great bullshitter, and look trustworthy.
Anyway, over the past few months I’ll admit that the role has proven to be too big for me. It has more responsibility than I want to handle at this stage of my life, and so I’ve made the decision to step back down into the 2IC role – which I believe is the right decision for my mental health. And I’m good with it. Sort of. I mean, I stepped up to the role last year when asked and managed it like a bitch… So why do I still feel like a failure for not being able to stick with it?
Why do we keep ramping up our personal goals without acknowledging the stepping stones we cross along the way? Small achievements are still achievements, aren’t they?
I’ve lost nearly two kilos in the past three weeks through sheer willpower. I’ve never felt as hangry in my life and my old clothes still don’t fit, but I am winning – I’m achieving what I set out to do. So why aren’t I happy about it? Why do I always focus on the days that I gained weight rather than the ones when I lost?
Why can’t I cut myself some slack? Why can’t I allow myself to admit that a stressful job is not something I need right now in order to keep supporting Kurt, managing our house moves, and achieving my writing goals?
Why can’t I see that the decision I’ve taken is not about failing, it’s about getting the balance in my life right for whatever time I have left. It’s about not being on my death bed and realising only then that my success in a job I hated was the most important thing in my life.
Have you done anything recently that you should have celebrated, but never got around to it?